Tag Archives: VWAM

man and woman at dinner

Two Words That Changed My Life

In college I participated in Chi Alpha, a faith-based student group. When I started dating  a young man of a different faith, he enjoyed coming to the gatherings with me and was accepted by the group. We were fond of each other, but his feelings grew stronger and more serious than mine.

I felt it only fair to end the relationship. We parted amicably but he left our group; it was awkward for both of us. Although I felt the breakup was necessary, I grieved for the loss of our friendship.

One evening several of us were talking in a group when a new member of our group joined us. We knew little about him other than he had recently left the Army and started attending our college. He looked at me and said, “Where is John tonight?” (not his real name) No one spoke as everyone looked from me to him and back to me. Apparently he was the only one who didn’t know we had broken up.

Finally, one of the girls softly explained, “They aren’t dating anymore.” Everyone remained silent, I suppose assuming I was upset at the reminder. I wasn’t upset but I realized everyone else was uncomfortable. I didn’t want our new friend to feel bad about the mistake, so I tried to make light of it. I blurted out the first thing that popped into my head. “That’s right,” I said smiling.  “I’m available.”

With that, everyone, including me, laughed. Thinking back now, I puzzle why I said that. It was out of character for me, a confirmed introvert, and besides, I did not need or want another romantic relationship with anyone. I was planning to attend medical school, and romance did not fit into that plan.

However, the young man took me seriously, calling me a few days later to ask for a date. And despite my reluctance to become involved, I said yes. “What harm could it do?” I thought. “Why sit in the dorm alone on Friday night?”

That night I learned about Raymond’s past. He separated from the Army after serving for three years. He had already earned a bachelor’s degree and was attending graduate school with his veteran’s benefits. I casually asked if he had been stationed overseas. He said yes- he had served in Germany and in Vietnam. I did not realize those words also would change my life.

soldiers at a remote military base

various scenes from the firebase where Raymond was stationed in VietNam; I understood nothing about what happened there.

This was 1972 and  the American war in Vietnam was raging. The United States government needed soldiers to carry out the engagement, and the draft was active and dreaded. The war was unpopular and divided our country. We watched the course of the conflict nightly on television news (no Internet  or social media then).

Raymond was the first person I knew personally who had served in Vietnam. Service members and veterans of that war were portrayed in the media as fighting an unnecessary, unjustified war at best and as baby killers at worst.Today military servicemembers and veterans are honored and considered heroes .  Today’s veterans feel proud of what they do; not so for those who served in Vietnam.

library interior

The reading room of the library looks the same as it did 40 years ago.

Over dates at  football games, church, social events and study times our feelings for each other grew. from friendship to love. He asked me to marry him a few weeks later, but I wouldn’t commit so soon. We married about 2 years later, as he completed his master’s degree.

Soon after our wedding I started medical school, graduated and started practicing.  He pursued a career in the Information Technology industry. We raised two sons, travelled, attended church.

But our “happily ever after” did not match reality. Our marriage was often tense, unsatisfying, and distant  and we did not understand why. We did not communicate well. He felt I was demanding and controlling. I felt he was insensitive and selfish. We had to look to the past to find the reason for the pain in our present.

family skiing on mountain

one of many family ski trips

Military medicine now recognizes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a common result of service in combat; 40 years ago it was unrecognized and untreated. There were no support groups, counselling or rehabilitative services available.

My husband said little about his military service, so for years we both suffered the effects of unrecognized PTSD. By the mid-1980s veterans’ groups pushed to recognize the service of Vietnam veterans and encouraged discussion about the psychic trauma many of them dealt with; and with that came opportunities for treatment and healing.

army veteran standing next to a floral bouquet at a memorial

We always visit the traveling Vietnam Veteran Memorial Wall when it comes to our area.

Through counselling and a support group my husband faced the past and gained a will to move forward. After reading a book , A Missing Peace, written by another Vietnam veteran, he considered taking a trip back to Vietnam and after much thought, signed up, although we were both apprehensive.

He chose to travel with Vets with a Mission , VWAM,  a faith based non-profit  whose mission is “reconciliation” between former enemies in the Vietnam war, and also within the veterans’ themselves.

By touring the country and meeting VietNamese people in peacetime, Raymond began moving past the painful memories and creating a new history. He found a country still suffering from the after effects of many years of war, and found a new purpose for his life- to help the very country that had caused us so much pain.

man with Vietnamese boys laughing

Raymond making friends and having fun with some Vietnamese boys

That trip led to another, and another, and another- thirteen trips  serving on volunteer teams to Vietnam with VWAM.  He served by teaching the computer technology he spent years honing and mentored Vietnamese professionals as they developed skills like his.

I accompanied him on many of these trips, serving as physician on medical teams, treating poor Vietnamese citizens in free clinics. We made friends with other veterans and their families, and with Vietnamese people, who often respected American Vietnam veterans more than Americans do.

Raymond found “reconciliation”  for himself and we experienced it in our marriage.  It was a process and still is.

2 Corinthians 5: 18 – “All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself

through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” motto of  VWAM

man next to concrete bunker

visiting an old war bunker on China Beach

As  a pre-teen I read a book about an American doctor who treated poor people in a foreign country. I developed an interest in  health care through that and other books, and decided to become a doctor. I dreamed of someday traveling overseas and treating people like he and other doctors did. I didn’t remember anything  about him except his name. I did an Internet search and found his story- Dr. Tom Dooley. He was a physician in the United States Navy and in the 1950s he was assigned to direct the care of refugees- in Vietnam. (After his military service, he founded a humanitarian organization and tragically died young of melanoma.)

When I watched  the war in Vietnam on TV news,  I didn’t realize the doctor I had read about had worked there. I never imagined that I would ever go there. And I never imagined that war would indirectly help me meet my husband, and create a family that brings me joy every day.  When I said, “I’m available” I had no idea how true that would be.

man and lady dressed in dance costumes

And I never expected us to do a ballroom dance routine for an audience!

Here are links to other posts about our travels to Vietnam

The end of the war was a beginning

Tuesday Travels-Vietnam

Building medical clinics in Vietnam

A Missing Peace: Vietnam : Finally Healing the Pain 

by Robert Seiple and Gregg Lewis          31-my2blq-rl

“The gripping account of the author’s experiences with “a war without closure” as a Marine aviator and as head of a relief agency ministering in that country. Through his own search for personal and national reconciliation, he shows us the only way to find real closure and genuine healing.”   (Amazon review)(This is an affiliate link.)

 

 

 

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"faith, hope, love"

Love is- Weekend Words from 1 Corinthians ,The Message

 

 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, The Message 

“Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.”

 

photos from humanitarian aid trips to Vietnam with Vets with a Mission 

 

Children's Heart Surgery Project

Children needing heart surgery are identified on exam during mission trip clinics.

Learn about VWAM’s Children’s Heart Surgery Program and how you can help provide life saving heart surgery to a Vietnamese child.

 

 

 

A veteran who “dishes out” love 

 

Raymond with Montegard Children

Raymond making friends with children during his first trip back to Vietnam

 

 

 

Weekend words is a regular feature of watercress words. At the end of the work week we break from exploring medical topics to read words of faith, hope and love from the Bible and other carefully selected writings.

Please follow this blog for more Weekend Words and posts that 

inform, instruct and inspire you to explore the HEART of HEALTH 

And more words about love this month to celebrate Valentine’s Day 

 

 

 

 

FAITH LOVE HOPE- words created with letter tiles

Dishing out love

 

My husband Raymond and I have had the honor and pleasure of knowing Bob Peragallo and his wife for several years. He is the Board Chairman for Vets With a Mission  (VWAM) , a faith based humanitarian organization;  we have served with them on mission trips to VietNam.

Like my husband, Bob is a veteran of the American war in Vietnam. After his military service, he pastored a church. He shared his thoughts on pastoring, leading a service organization, and serving people in need. Words worth sharing

two veterans in Vietnam

Raymond Oglesby, Bob Peragallo and local officials at Trabong Vietnam

 

” Often people come to me searching for something deeper than a 500 character religious platitude, something stronger than a scripture icon or soundbyte. Like them, I need something I can touch, see and feel. What we need is love because only love can satisfy us.

When this need happens for me, I never want to have to walk away empty handed or when it is my turn to be the giver of this love, God help me to never give them a substitute.

We all believe in love, but often we love the idea of love, when it needs to be our job description. God declares Himself to be “Love” and He is, but it doesn’t always run in the family. Far too often, our lives become a poor substitute for the Jesus that the world is looking to see. If I lose my focus, I may give a poor substitute for this kind of love.

As someone who has received this love from my heavenly Father, I should always err on the side of loving people.

volunteer team members dishing out love in Vietnam

 

 

We might give our religious form, our knowledge of God or worst yet, my version of what is right (oh, how I love to be right). We can dish out our political views, judgments and contempt, even silence. We all understand and can relate to this from personal experience…and we know how much it sucks.

The mistake we should never make is to be generous with judgment and stingy with love. The people around us are starving for love and we need to unlock our pantry and see to it that everybody gets a belly full.

 

That doesn’t mean you always tell them what they want to hear and that they are not accountable. Whenever I find myself in this tension with people, or if you do, always do your best to fill that gap with compassion, kindness and decency. When you need love nothing else will work. My job is to love others, not see to it that others love me. ”

my husband snapped this photo of me with Bob; he went with us to visit the site of Raymond's firebase during the war

my husband snapped this photo of me with Bob; he went with us to visit the site of Raymond’s firebase during the war

along the way we visited the memorial at Son My, better know to Americans as My Lai, site of the infamous massacre

along the way we visited the memorial at Son My, better known to Americans as My Lai, site of the infamous massacre

Three Servicemen, Vietnam Veterans Memorial replica

From bullets to blessings-one man’s journey to recovery from war

April 30  1975  the United States withdrew from VietNam after many years of involvement in that country’s war. That conflict remains a part of American history- and also a part of the personal history of the men and women and their families who served the military in any capacity during those years. Here is  a perspective on that history from my husband Raymond Oglesby.

in country, 1970

in country, 1970

Finding The Way Back

By Raymond Oglesby

I didn’t want to ever go to Vietnam again when I came home in 1972 after a one-year tour of duty with the United States Army. I was stationed with the Americal Division, 3/18 Field Artillery Battalion near Tra Bong, a major village located about 25 miles west of Chu Lai, the headquarters of the Americal Division, on “China Beach” at the South China Sea.

Tra Bong was an artillery base and housed two 8 inch and two 175 self-propelled howitzers. Each gun was capable of launching a 90 to 100 pound projectile 20 to 30 miles. The “fire base” was home to about 120 soldiers. Day and night, we fired the guns.

The US Army trained enlisted men to use weapons to destroy the enemy. Our mission was to route the NVA (North Vietnam Army) and VC (Viet Cong) from South Vietnam. I served as team leader of Fire Direction Control (FDC). We were responsible for working up fire missions and passing them to the gun crews via radio.

RAymond on duty at the firebase.

Killing the enemy, Vietnamese soldiers, didn’t bother me then because I did not see them as human. They would intercept our radio transmissions and curse us in English. We called them Charlie, VC and gooks. Without real names, they did not exist. Despite our superior air, sea and land capabilities the United States military lost the war, the first war our country has ever lost.

When I came home, I did not talk about my involvement in the Vietnam War for over fifteen years. I only told two or three people what really happened. I thought only  another Vietnam vet could understand.

After the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial was erected in Washington D.C. (1982), I began reading and watching videos about that time in our nation’s history. In Vietnam, we heard nothing about the anti-war demonstrations back in the States. Now I realized that our country’s involvement there had been a misguided effort. The more I learned, the more I wanted to go back to Vietnam, not to feel sorry for myself but to help the country I tried to destroy.

For Christmas, my wife gave me A Missing Peace, a book written by a Vietnam veteran, Robert Seiple. From it, I learned I was not the only veteran haunted by his war experience. Others sought healing from their shame and anger.

And I discovered how much the Vietnamese people had suffered and still did. Unlike other wars, no restitution was made to rebuild the nation so Vietnam steadily declined economically. He described efforts to help rebuild Vietnam and said anyone can make a difference. He issued a call to “reconciliation”, both within ourselves and between the two countries.

I decided to contact Vets with a Mission (VWAM), one of the agencies listed in the book. VWAM is a non-profit, non-political organization that works to bring healing and reconciliation between our countries. Since 1988, VWAM has taken  teams of veterans and other volunteers into Vietnam. At their own expense they travel to Vietnam to build rural medical clinics, support orphanages, care for homeless children and work with hospitals.

I began planning a trip there myself, wondering what I would find and how I would feel. I did not understand why God was stirring my heart for the people of Vietnam. Was I a traitor for wanting to aid a former enemy? Some of my friends thought so, saying “Since you were dying to get out, why would you go back?”

In January 1994 I arrived in Vietnam for my first visit after twenty-two years. I was so excited I couldn’t sleep. I ran whenever we stopped to visit a site, especially if I had been there during the war. I empathized with the Vietnamese who were still living in poverty. I no longer saw them as enemies but as fellow humans. They treated us kindly and welcomed us wherever we went.

At Tra Bong a crowd of people followed us around, since few Americans have been there since the war. For me the highlight of the trip was a visit to the site of the old firebase.

After walking around the now deserted site, I felt I should kneel to pray for the village people around me. They did not understand what I was doing or saying. Right then, my heart was broken for the Vietnamese people.

As we left, children from the nearby school mobbed our van. My eyes misted with tears as I felt the Lord drawing me back. “You must reach these people for my Kingdom.” I knew then I would go back.

making friends with children during his trip back

making friends with children during his trip back

I have served on several Vets with a Mission teams, teaching computer applications in schools and hospitals. I have made Vietnamese friends. Some people think I am a traitor by giving aid to a former enemy. I’m not offended or resentful toward them. I only know that God has given me a burden and compassion for the people of Vietnam.

In 1970, I went on a mission of destruction, now I go on a mission of reconstruction. We failed to win the minds of the Vietnamese by bullets, but we are touching their hearts through the love of God.

More about the history of the Vietnam war at this affiliate link